Education, community, veggies
We harvested just the outer leaves, leaving the inner leaves intact, with more room to grow.
With luck, we'll get to enjoy greens from these collards all the way into October.
This is our second week of leaf harvest (day 57) on the swiss chard. Compared to the mammoth leaves in the supermarket, ours are younger, sweeter and more tender (basically, better in every way). They require very little cooking and the brightly-colored stems are particularly lovely in a stir fry.
A few of the transplanted and otherwise smaller plants are not quite ready for a leaf harvest. However, the discrepancies in size are lessening as the season progresses.
A couple weeks ago, we decided to experiment on the cauliflower. No, no, we did not pour boiling water on them! Quoting from the Kansas State University Univesity horticulture report on cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower: "Blanching consists of pulling some of the larger leaves over the small head when they are 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and securing them with twine or rubber bands. Failure to blanch will result in discolored heads often wtih a bitter, disagreeable flavor." Gardeners were mixed about implementing blanching on the cauliflower. Some felt that tying leaves around the head would suppress head growth, leading to smaller heads. Others were skeptical about any difference in taste. So, as an experiment, we tied up two heads, and left the rest untied.
Two weeks later, we have some results. One of the cauliflower heads tied up is quite white; another whose tie fell off and needed to be retied is mostly white. By comparison, the head not tied at all is distinctly yellow. It is also the smallest of the three, but then (unfairly perhaps) the two tied up were larger then as well. One gardener still scoffed that there would be no taste difference. We shall see!
The first snow peas were harvested on June 19 (59 days from planting). Peas will be coming fast and furious for the next two or three weeks. We also picked a few sugar snaps, but they won't really come into their own for another week. The shell peas are probably 2 weeks from maturity. We could have planted peas earlier and harvested a week or two sooner, but we were too busy in March creating this garden from nothing.
After my post earlier today about having no visitors yesterday, Oakes must have taken pity on me and shared some of his Pied-Piper-ish abilities with me because today when I returned to do a couple of chores, I had far more visitors.
One was sort of a drive-by, a woman who mentioned she didn't realize we were there, but who didn't show much more interest as she continued on to her pressing destination.
A couple of mothers, with three kids in tow, stopped to chat, showing lots more interest despite lacking, I would say, a burning desire to get involved themselves next year. Two sons of one mom were only interested in whether my dog, seated serenely outside the gate, was indeed my dog. The older one asked, and I answered. Then the younger one asked, more quietly, but seeking the same knowledge I'd just given out.
Later, a gaggle of youngsters came by, eventually trailed by one adult who may or may not have been related to any of them, asking to come in and interested to know what we were doing. I explained what I could, and offered each a snow pea pod. One wanted to know how to peel it, and another shied away completely. Of those who tried one, I got a bell curve of responses: The youngest boy didn't like his and it ended up first on the ground, then in the compost when I pointed it out. ("Where are the worms?" he asked, quite sagaciously.) A freckled girl liked hers so much she came back after she'd scurried off to declare her affection. The rest were in the middle.
My two purposes in going over were to water the no-grass strip created by the installation of a water line from the street (today was my turn), and I accomplished that, albeit not without watering myself far more than I would have liked to in the process. I guess it takes some practice.
I opened the garden at 5:50 last evening and soon left to go to collect produce donations at the farmers' market.
In just my 20 minutes, several intrigued people came by, the adults usually more interested than the children.
When I returned at 15 before 7, Lisa and Bailey and daughter were there. We tried some of the radishes: The regular ones split from the rain like cherry tomatoes, but were good. Of the big ones, one was OK, but the biggest one was riddled with wire worms.
Tuesday when I was there for a moment in time, a man liked our garden but then didn't think the snow fence was so attractive, but I said well, it was recycled and was practical.
Dick today at Johnnies told me that one day this week when he was there, an older woman, an experienced gardener, informed him the collards were ready and should be harvested now, lest they get old and tough.
Only in the most jocular way, I'm starting to question the dispatches of Oakes, who reports frequently on all the visitors he entertains in the garden.
I came by yesterday in the morning — I often glance in on my walks with infant Joe and dog Emma, to admire all "my" handiwork — and ended up staying for an hour, putting out doggie water and pulling out weeds, though I was surprised by how few there were, relative to the real estate.
Even though both the playground and the school playground were packed, not only with kids but with parents (an end-of-year thing, maybe?), I had not one visitor! Either he's cooking the books, or he's far more attractive than I am to those in the area as a potential host and guide. Yes, that must be it.
It's a good thing I did get over there to do some work, because family responsibilities kept me from keeping my early evening plan to meet up for the regular midweek session. When I drove by on the way home to feed Joe, I saw only Lisa toiling away, though I understand others were there for portions of the late afternoon and evening.
While I was at the garden this morning, doing surgery on the soaker hose (2X more holes now), a handsome, boxy 5-ft-5 grandmother, maybe in her early 70s, came over with her 2-year-old grandkid (or was it great-grandkid?) to admire the garden.
We connected quickly. She pointed around the place, calling off all the veggies she had growing in her own garden. Then, hand out level with her shoulder, she said in a thick eastern European accent: “My tomatoes are much taller; they're cherries; and they produce lots.” Then she smiled.
I thought, "This lady knows tomatoes," and told her that some of mine at home were still only 4 to 5 inches high.
Then the gentle, between-friends scold began.
“Why haven’t you picked those yet?” she said, pointing to the collard greens. “Another week and those leaves will be hard. You don't want that."
"You’ve got to pick them now," she said. "Boil them first, then fry them with a little olive oil. They will taste very good.”
“But do it now,” she repeated, poking the air before me with her finger. “Don’t let them get hard.”
I promised I’d pass her admonitions on to the crew tomorrow evening, when we get together for our mid-week shift.
Today we harvested our largest radish, a Watermelon Radish, almost as big as a turnip, a handsome pink color with white, only the radish was burrowed into by the wire worm, all deformed, and in fact one of them appeared so as to have his photograph taken!
We learned that the wire worm is particularly prevelant when turf is converted to garden. We hope it will not also burrow into our carrots and beets and potatoes! Continued cultivation in the fall is one solution so that the worms will be noticed by their predators, such as, an article suggests, your chickens!
A smaller crew this morning at the garden, but plenty of visitors (particularly very young ones, we hope they lay down some fundamental memories of their visit).
The harvest was still mostly thinnings (kale, onions, arugula that was bolting) plus the last of our seedling-origin lettuce, and with a foray into radish research. Pulling out a monstrously huge one both to give its neighbors half a chance and to see what was happening: it showed signs of insect invasion as well having odd and giant growth. Divvying the insides up for tasting revealed some radishy heat but not bad flavor.
We decided to let the radishes be for now rather than harvest. A few rain drops fell as we were leaving, but we watered the new grass leading from the street to our water spigot as well as in the garden.
I stayed at the Garden a couple of hours Friday, going over to the Brackett to converse with teachers and mothers. I showed one teacher around with questions and answers.
Other visitors included children from the Arlington Schools for Children, which shares space with l'Ecole Bilingue, and the kids raced through the garden. There were 9 or so.
A neighborhood gardener who has a plot at Habitat was very praiseworthy of our garden; she lives nearby.
A boy wanted to wash the stickiness off his hands, but my first try at the combo failed, so he found other means by the time I succeeded and relocated him. He thanked me for my effort. He is going to Peru this summer!
I tried to draw some minute wildflowers growing along our back fence. Anyway.
Not too many visitors in the gray and raw day Wednesday. Steven and I talked to several interested people though.
Did I relate we had a Hungarian woman and child Tuesday, who thought of joining us, but then had too much on her plate?
I forgot to mention an Oriole was in our garden the other day! Usually I only see the English Sparrows -- what are they into?? Steven saw the Oriole too on the fence!
A good omen I think.
With all the recent rain, our black-on-white veggie signs began to shed their latex backsides.
Better for them to go all nekkid, we decided. That meant new signs.
The new ones are all white cedar, made from loose ends contributed by Arlington supporters.
Given time, people say, these will turn a nice silvery gray, much like the garden's fence.
All the peas started flowering around June 5 (45 days), and by June 9 are covered with flowers.
I'm a bit surprised that these sugar snaps are blooming this early - they're only about 2 ft tall. Johnny's says 62 days from planting to 1st harvest for the sugar snaps.
At this rate, we will definitely have peas on the 4th of July.
I talked to quite a few parents and children over the two-and-a-half hours I was there today. I gave out veggie school cards, for which I noted quite a bit of interest.
People seemed especially impressed with the broccoli and cauliflower, and I even had some radish backers when I complained of our excess. What do we think of pickled radish?
Or pole beans? We've some extra seeds. I am thinking we could plant a few in a corner and put in a bamboo for it to climb to the sky.
When we pull the radishes, how about if we replace them with turnips? They grow fast and are very good when early.
Our fourteen tomato plants went into the ground at Memorial Day, after a robust discussion the week before of which types and quantities we should raise.
Twelve of them ended up in the bed we designated for them, and singles are in the adjacent brassica bed in openings created when we had to remove diseased cauliflower and cabbage plants.
This is our roster, thanks to Lisa, who reported their planting when they went in: 2 sugar plum grape, 2 sungold cherry, 1 red zebra, 1 blondkopfchen cherry, 2 Moskovitch, 1 yellow perfection, 1 red brandywine, 1 brandywine, 1 Charlie Black and 2 eva purples.
The method for planting was completely different than what I would have done with my own tomato plants at home had I not been there to observe: The holes were dug one-third deeper than the pots the seedlings were in; this was because tomatoes, I was told (by Mike, or Alan?) are vines, and all about their roots. To accommodate the added depth, we pinched off the shoots from the stem that would have been underground.
The holes were prepared, meanwhile, just as I had, on instruction, earlier in the day for peppers and eggplants: A small handful of chicken poop for fertilizer and a sprinkling of pulverized eggshells for calcium, to ward off blossom end rot.
Mike, who headed the tomato committee, advised mounding small rings of earth at each plant's drip line, to form sort of a watering dish. This, he told me, ensures that water showered on the plant is more likely to arrive at its roots, instead of dampening all the surrounding area.